Discs anthologizing Tobias Hume have appeared
for almost as long as Elizabethan and Jacobean music has been
recorded. Discs presenting only Captain Hume - yes he was indeed,
in his youth, a soldier - are much rarer although in 1997 Naxos
did produce two discs mixing instrumental works, especially the
viol pieces he is best known for, with various songs (Naxos 8554126
and 554127). What makes this well-filled recording valuable and
unusual is that Hume’s music is coupled with a recent work for
violas da gamba by Eric Fischer. His is a new name to me but from
what the booklet biographies tell us he is a very prolific composer.
The CD opens with one of Captain Hume’s most played and recorded pieces, Captain Hume’s Pavan
coupled here with a brief Soldier’s Gaillard
. The former is a searching and deep meditation, which can only just be considered a Pavan. This is the most expressive account of it I have ever heard and sets the CD off on the right foot for me.
There are two major collections of Hume’s music The first part of Ayres
in which the above two pieces can be found. This dates from 1605 and comprises mainly but not entirely pieces for solo viol. Then there is Captain Hume’s Poeticall musicke
(1607) in which can be found pieces for viol consort or more especially two or three violas da gamba. The next pieces are from that collection. What Greater Grief
might remind one of passages from Dowland’s recently published Lacrimae
. This piece, better known in its solo vocal version (with words like “ there is no relief in deepest woe”) comes in what is called ‘Two couplets’; melancholic second part ends the CD. Also from this collection comes The Virgin’s muse
for three viols
is a lengthy and intense piece in fantasia form. It is preceded by an imitative dance-like miniature for two viols possibly based on a folk melody Touch me Sweetly
and its ensuing An Answere
is not like a James Naughtie question: it is short and to the point with some quite aggressive phrases. The placatory Answere
is much longer, uses some of the material from A Question
and grows in confidence - all quite fascinating.
Musick and Mirth
is almost a madrigal for three viols with its opening contrasted ideas being repeated with typical imitation. It is in triple time but with the second contrasting idea in duple time. These two melodies are then played attractively and with imagination. Tinckeldum Twinckeldum
is a triple time dance for solo viol but so cleverly written in its two registers that it almost appears to be for two viols.
One of my favourite pieces on the disc is Sweet Music
for three viols set as a Pavan in three sections. Perhaps Dowland is the inspiration. It is lyrical and clearly a tune with a not overly complex accompaniment. Its predominantly major mode is especially touching. It is followed by a solo piece from the ‘Ayres’, Good Again
presumably based on a pre-existing song, with its usual double-stopping, some left hand pizzicato passages and dance measures. Do I also detect some col legno
Eric Fischer’s Topographic Long-Range
falls into eight sections. It was commissioned by Muller. The opening Premier duo is a duet. It is jazz-inspired, highly syncopated and almost a perpetuum mobile
. A five movement solo viol portion follows being headed as Les Géosophiques
. This challenges the performer to use several extraordinary effects which the composer in his notes lists as quarter-tone melodies, glissandos, long measured sustained notes, simultaneity of unsynchronized fluxes! “Sources”, the first movement, sounds rather nocturnal. In “Concordancia discordancium canorum” we hear the glissandi and double-stoppings. In “Medius” we have harmonics and further haunting glissandi. “De l’arupt” incorporates quarter-tone double-stops. Finally the wonderful “Coda” has some finger percussion and all kinds of pizzicato effects. There follows a second duo which is partially syncopated and jazzy but also has haunting nocturnal moments. Finally we have “Le Clepsydre”, a weird and wonderful exploitation of wispy noises for all three viols. A truly extraordinary work and one, which, much to my surprise, held my attention.
The modernist Fischer and the modernist (for his time) Captain Hume make ideal bedfellows. All of the performances are remarkably true to the composers’ intentions and wonderfully conceived and created.